Yesterday I saw this answer, which essentially summarized an entire story in plain view, so I suggested this edit to hide the summary and require the user to mouse over it to read it. This edit was rejected, and the reason given was this:

This edit does not make the post even a little bit easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either completely superfluous or actively harm readability.

I'm a little surprised and am wondering what might have been the issue. There are a couple of possible things that come to mind, but if it's either one of these, I would be relatively surprised:

  1. Hiding plot spoilers is not considered proper grounds for editing another user's answer.

  2. I did insert a brief, non-spoiler description of the story.

As far as the second possible reason goes, the reason I did this is that SE requires you to enter at least six characters to edit another person's post, although just hiding that summary only requires you to enter a single character. Instead of doing something weird to meet the six-character quota, I just entered a brief summary without a spoiler, which basically only had information that was already in the original answer (in the story's summary).

I'm honestly having a little trouble following the reasoning behind it getting rejected. Somebody else in the meantime has made a similar edit, which will keep the spoiler out of view. What was the reasoning behind the original rejection?

  • 8
    You've destroyed the answer, it went from being an answer to a Story-id to effectively hiding the answer. You're trying to help someone identify a story they've read, you don't need to spoiler tag anything.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 15:01
  • 7
    "destroyed" seems a rather harsh and inappropriate description here.
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 17:56
  • @TonyMeyer I guess it could seem like that at first glance. But when a perfectly acceptable answer gets hidden because of possible spoilers, in a story identification the definition of "Warning, abandon all surprise, ye who enter here", is, in my opinion, destroying an answer.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 13:09

2 Answers 2


The post in question answered the question in the first line:

Could it be Flowers for Algernon?

So far so good. Anyone interested in stories about intelligent rats has an idea for an interesting story to read. No spoilers so far.

But the rest of the post describes the plot in detail, and that would spoil it for anyone who hasn't read Flowers for Algernon. Under the circumstances hiding that text seems such a stunningly obvious thing to do that I find it baffling there should be any debate about it. Indeed I have now made exactly that edit myself.

I answer a lot of story id questions and I usually include quotes from the story to support my answer. But the quotes I use normally illustrate only what has already been given away in the question. When I also give away parts of the plot that aren't in the question, and are key to the story, I generally hide the text so as not to spoil it for anyone who doesn't know the story and wants to read it. This just seems, well, a polite thing to do.

  • 4
    I don't object to the use of spoiler formatting in the post in question, but the use of spoiler formatting was heavy handed in this case. It's not a spoiler that, for example, the "story is told through a series of journal entries...". Indeed, the question says that the stories "was written in the form of a series of letters", which closely matches what you've hidden behind spoiler formatting. By hiding everything -- including information that isn't really a spoiler -- you make it harder for readers to confirm that the answer is a good match.
    – Null Mod
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 16:48
  • 5
    @Null yes the edit could have been better. I made a quick edit to address what I saw as an immediate problem. Anyone is of course welcome to improve on my edit. Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 17:04

TL;DR, its a story ID answer and it makes no sense to use spoiler markup

The relevant part of that all encompassing reason is:

This edit does not make the post even a little bit easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either completely superfluous or actively harm readability.

So to be clear, it was not a bad edit, just an unnecessary one. Spoilers are incumbent in identifying stories. And the person we are answering has already read the story and can't be spoiled.

As a general rule, if you are view a tag, it's on you to avoid spoilers, not on us to hide anything that might be a spoiler for anyone. If we did that, this site would become unreadable.

  • 12
    "the person we are answering has already read the story and can't be spoiled" - except that in this case the story the OP was looking for isn't the story identified in that answer, so there's no reason to think they've read "Flowers for Algernon" too. "if you are view a tag [sic], it's on you to avoid spoilers" - no; if this was the policy, then there'd be no reason for spoilertags anywhere (except in story-ID answers, where the tag doesn't warn people what story might be spoiled for them).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 17:28
  • 3
    I can't protect against anyone who may or may not be aware of a story from being spoiled. You link a meta that says "it's up to users to find their own guidelines". In my opinion, if a user clicks on a link, then they assume the risks incumbent in that decision. It is still courteous to >! stuff, but not an obligation. Story IDs are admittedly strange beasts, but I stand by my original decision in regards to this edit.
    – amflare
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 18:00
  • 10
    using spoiler tags falls broadly under 'be nice' as opposed to 'screw you pal, you clicks the link, you takes the risk". The twist in FfA is a good one and worth preserving for future readers that may be unfamiliar with the work or the film
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 18:17
  • 2
    Pretty sure the policy on spoilers in ID answers is the same as in ID questions: include them, and use spoiler tags but only to hide details that give away a particularly important or memorable twist Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 12:58

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